Flanagin v. Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
July 31, 2014
CategoriesStatute of Limitations
Statute of Limitations Back Multiple Injuries §95
Summary from the Troubh Heisler Attorneys
In this case the Appellate Division overturned the hearing officer’s ruling that the employee’s petition was barred by the statute of limitations. Flanagin suffered work-related back injuries in 1975, 1978, and 1979. The employer last paid benefits for the 1975 and 1978 injuries in 1982. However, the employer continued to pay benefits for the 1979 injury until 2002, when a Board decree found that the effects of the 1979 injury had ended. Flanagin went out of work in 2011 and filed petitions claiming benefits on account of the 1975 and 1978 injuries. The hearing officer denied the petitions, ruling that they were barred by the statute of limitations because more than 10 years had elapsed since 1982 when benefits were last paid on either of those injuries; and that Flanagin had failed to carry his burden of proving that when the employer continued to pay benefits for the 1979 injury, it had “contemporaneous notice” that the payments were attributable in part to the 1975 and 1978 injuries.
The appellate panel affirmed with respect to the 1978 claim, but reversed with respect to the 1975 claim. The panel reviewed the determination that Flanagin had not carried his burden of proving “contemporaneous notice” as a matter of law rather than as a finding of fact. The panel cited a 1989 medical report in which the doctor stated that Flanagin described the 1975 injury as his “major back injury,” that Flanagin had experienced the same symptoms ever since, and that his symptoms were unchanged by surgery. Although the doctor did not attribute Flanagin’s 1989 problems to the 1975 injury, the panel ruled as a matter of law that this medical history gave the employer notice that the benefits it was paying for the 1979 injury were attributable at least in part to the 1975 injury. Because those benefits were last paid in 2002, the petition filed in 2011 was not barred by the 10-year statute of limitations in 39 M.R.S. §95 that applied to the 1975 injury.